In recent races, Mercedes‘s tyre strategy has paid dividends at a time the odds appeared to be in favour of its rivals.
For the penultimate race of the season, at a circuit popular with just about everyone bar Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, while its rivals load up with C3 softs, Mercedes and McLaren take just 8 sets of the red-banded rubber.
And while world champion (x6), Lewis Hamilton leads the way in terms of C2 mediums, the Briton taking four sets, like the majority of drivers he opts for just one set of C1 hards, his go-to tyre in the last two races, teammate Valtteri Bottas is one of six drivers taking three sets of the yellow-banded tyres, while Daniel Ricciardo takes just one.
All three were on a one-stop strategy, albeit running different compounds.
While Hamilton and Verstappen both started on supersofts, the Briton subsequently changed to mediums and the Red Bull driver to softs. Raikkonen, on the other hand, started on softs before switching to mediums.
Bottas and Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth and sixth, were all on a two-stop strategy.
Brazil is the third-shortest lap of the year (after Monaco and Mexico City) at 2.677 miles (4.309 kms), meaning the tyres are kept busy with an almost non-stop sequence of corners and plenty of traffic.
In terms of weather, it’s perhaps the most unpredictable event of the year: previous races have included the hottest track temperatures seen all season, as well as torrential rain.
The right-rear tyre is the most stressed on the anti-clockwise layout, with the tyres subjected to fast corners and combined forces: these high energy loads are the reason for a relatively hard tyre nomination.